As most men will agree, the only thing more bracing than Black Friday shopping is more shopping. This isn’t big-name, big-box stuff. Small Business Saturday® encourages consumers to SHOP SMALL®. American Express developed the program as a way to help small businesses market themselves. While the financial giant’s small biz bolstering is less than selfless, it’s still very cool to encourage spending of which 52% stays within the community.
If you’re a small business owner, like I am, it’s sometimes not so cool to be a business partner with the person who’s also a romantic partner.
1. Wear another hat. Lots of relationship problems arise from mixing what are two very distinct entities. Keeping the purpose of each is absolutely necessary to keeping them both alive. For example, a business can’t thrive when one partner is trying to undermine the other as a way of “getting back” after a fight.
2. Keep clear goals. Is it the purpose of the business to create loving, relaxed time together? Hardly. Likewise, it’s deadly to a romantic relationship to bring rude customers, money worries, or business planning into the bedroom. A top agenda item needs to be agreement on what each of those relationships look like. Especially who you will look like as a businessperson as opposed to a partner. Who gets to be on top?
3. Don’t fight in front of customers. You don’t have to actively argue in front of other people for them to know that something’s wrong. Want customers to walk out? Bring tension into the room. However, it’s easier said to keep from having animosity leak out your pores when you’re angry with each other. For couples who work together having communication skills that work is essential. If you don’t have ’em, get ’em. To your accountant; investing in communication classes might even be a deductible business expense!
4. Leave your children out of it. It’s often convenient for small business owners to have their children around their business. What’s especially off-putting is when those kids have roles within the business. Personally, I don’t want the house cleaner’s eight-year-old doing the vacuuming or playing hopscotch on the tile floor. Whenever there’s a personal face on your business, treat your customers professionally.
5. Be professional, not personal. There’s a line that some business owners cross when it comes to customer relations, especially when the relationship is with one of the business’ owners and not the other. Giving discounts, freebies, sharing personal information, can set up tension among owners and customers to say nothing of how this kind of practice crosses business and home thresholds.
6. Remember who you are. Family expectations start early and run deep. Both partners need to be absolutely clear about themselves: who they are; what they want for themselves, each other, and the family; and the relative role a family business plays in their lives. If you inherited a business, be clear on whether you both want in or out. I’ve counseled partners together and separately about the destructiveness that business can cause to togetherness.
I’m not kidding when I say that learning communication skills isn’t just for a marriage. Make continuing conversation part of your business plan. Success in one sphere is intimately tied to the other. Separating the two will always challenge you.
Kathe & David Skinner have been business partners for the past 14 years, beholden to Being Heard, a business dedicated to teaching and coaching romantic relationships. They were romantic partners first, married for over 27 years. They’ve learned, through some prickly times, to keep the two relationships separate. Kathe is also a Marriage & Family Therapist in addition to be a Certified Relationship Expert.